Sunday, May 1, 2011


For three days last week I was on a whirl-wind tour of the public gardens in and around New York City. I must say I am impressed with the amount of community outreach, conservation and research these institutions are involved with. These behind-the-scenes tours allows you to see beyond the plantings and understand just how important gardens are to cultures, education, reserarch and conservation.

I absolutely love watching people enjoying the gardens. I love it. It stirs within me this profound happiness. For me, aside from retaining the biodiversity of plant life, it makes the existence of gardens worthwhile when mankind takes pleasure in all they can offer.

While on this trip I have witnessed a quiet passion for mosses in public gardens. After telling someone about my mossy ambitions I always receive a positive reaction. The general reaction being "oh how lovely, what a wonderful thing to study!" and always followed by a genuine smile. That kind of affirmation honestly warms my heart and eases any worries that people have no interest in bryophytes, and gardens may actually benefit from my graduate research.

Wave Hill

Wave Hill House situated in a peaceful, intimate part of the Bronx.

Prunus 'Hally Jolivette' creates a cloud of tiny, deep pink flowers.
The horticultural specimens in this garden are absolutely amazing and beautifully maintained.

On this perfect sunny day it was wonderful to see so many families meandering the gardens.

New York Botanical Garden

I am in love with the Library Building with its Corinthian columns and copper embellishments. I fell even more in love when I saw the bryophyte exhibit inside. The amount of research this garden in the Bronx does rivals any university.

The rare book, Historia naturalis palmarum has this beautifully detailed hand-colored chromolithograph by Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, Morenia Poppigiana. NYBG has a dedicated, climate-controlled room that houses a historical collection of rare books and folios

I couldn't help imagining myself as this woman incarnated. I too have spend a good amount of time staring down the eye piece of a microscope.

NYBG has one of the largest herbaria on the planet with over 7 million specimens. This Chiliotrichus amelloides was collected on Captain Cook's first voyage in 1769. Someone commented on all the re-identification labels on some of the specimens and it reminded me of the time I spent working in the Smithsonian's National Herbarium keying out Gnetum species. It's pretty cool having specimens in a large herbarium with your name on it as the identification authority.

Queens Botanical Garden

So many people flock to this garden in Queens to do various exercises, like Tai Chi and dance, in groups or individually. The entire place had this healthy atmosphere. This garden was so accommodating of all peoples, being in the most culturally diverse county in the nation, with its multi-lingual interpretation signage. It felt really great to be surrounded by such diversity, the garden's mission, "where plants, people and cultures meet" is very apparent here.

Though it was a small garden, it had some very beautiful vignettes. No surprise, every garden we went to had a plethora of bulbs.

An explosion of color! Unfortunately I never got a picture of their little experimental moss garden, which is just off the lower right side of this picture. They established it a couple years ago using some found rotting logs and mossy rocks.

This garden is doing amazing things with sustainable practices. This new LEED platinum certified visitor’s center is complete with a water-cleaning system, composting toilet, green roof, geothermal heating and cooling system. This 16,000 square foot building uses 82% less water than a conventional building of the same size!

Planting Fields Arboretum

This grand estate-turned-state-historic-park on long island was owned by William Robertson Coe and his family. The gardens are known for their camellia (as seen above), magnolia and rhododendron collections.

Coe Hall is a magnificent manor that has been converted into a museum. Also commonly used as a backdrop by many wedding photographers. I two newly wedded couples were spotted that day.

Somehow this garden was able to include many Daphne specimens in their collection; a finicky but beautiful plant. I'm going to say this is a D. genkwa, but I didn’t get a look at the label.

Old Westbury

This is the most beautiful estate home I have ever seen. No wonder it has been used in many movies. The front overlooks an extensive allee of beeches, where in the back an allee of old hemlocks reaches nearly to the Long Island Expressway.

Amidst the mist you can see the Temple of Love. Even with hundreds of tiny girl scouts running around and photo shoots taking place, this place has many quiet, intimate spots that make you forget you are stone's throw from NYC. No wonder this garden has been recognized as one the top 3 best public gardens in the world.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Not only does the signage in their sensory garden have Braille, but the stone retaining wall has been elevated from the ground a couple inches so that the visually impaired can feel comfortable resting their toes beneath it when interacting with the plants.

Betty Scholtz, advised me to make sure I see this original specimen of Magnolia 'Elizabeth', a cultivar that may or may not have been named for her. It is my favorite magnolia cultivar by far.

The hue generated by these flowering cherries is so brilliant, it was like walking beneath the vaults of a pink cathedral.

I was very impressed to learn that Brooklyn Botanic established this native plant garden in 1910. The general theme of this garden all around was "ahead of its time". They were also very dedicated in their beginnings to childrens education. Another of my favorite plants, Fothergilla is in the foreground with its pretty, honey-scented bottle-brush flowers.

I would not be possible for me to tell you which garden was my favorite. I can honestly say I was blown away be every single one of them. Each had their own specific mission and focus which allowed them the creativity to be unique to their geographic area, or demographic. Gardens are hardly just a place for cultivated plants, though, of course, that is what makes them beautiful. Next time you decide to take a day to wander around a public garden see if you can find out what they are doing actively whether related to greener practices, community involvement, education, scientific research or conservation. They do amazing things.

No comments:

Post a Comment